Thanks to happenstance, artist Apinya Srikhwanthong, had the opportunity to extend her time in the Navasota Artist in Residence Program (AIR) - and Navasota is enjoying the benefits! This is Apinya’s third residency in the program that allows artists to focus on their art, to network and perhaps get their first introduction to the artistic community. The program is a collaboration between the City of Navasota and the Arts Council of the Brazos Valley (ACBV) and funded by city hotel/motel occupancy tax.
For Navasota newcomers who haven’t met the vivacious paper sculpture artist, you could say Apinya was already a rising star at home in Thailand when she came to San Francisco to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts. During her freshman year at the Poh-Chang Academy in 2011, she entered the National Reality Fine Art Competition television show, “Art Tree, Season 2.” From more than 1,000 hopefuls, Apinya was selected one of 10 finalists. After completing 10 challenges, she was awarded second place and the prize was a scholarship. Apinya graduated from the American Academy of Art in San Francisco but surprised her family by applying for and being accepted into the AIR program in Navasota, Texas.
During Apinya’s residency, she maintained communication with family via video calling, and while they were surprised that she opted to stay another session, they were supportive of her decision.
Apinya said, “They let me be whatever I want to be. They are happy to see the work I’ve created in Navasota.”
The 4141 experience
One of the most unexpected and personally meaningful opportunities for Apinya was being here when the funeral train bearing the body of the late President George Bush passed through Navasota.
Apinya said, “My country also has a special connection with the president as well. Go back about 13 years when we had a tsunami and it was like a nightmare in Thailand. The president, George Bush, came to Thailand to help us. He also helped with funding from the United States and helped people in Thailand. We really appreciate him.”
She continued, “When he passed away, it was big news in Thailand as well. Our king sent a condolence letter to the United States of America. I really want to honor him as well. I think it was special that I was a Thai person who got to see the train passing through. I feel like it’s so special and that’s why we came up with our artwork honoring 41.”
Apinya and fellow Artist in Residence, Rebecca Di-as, created several art pieces commemorating the occasion and Apinya donated a watercolor record of that once-in-a-lifetime event to the Navasota Library and the Best Museum at the Horlock House.
Expanding her medium
Paper art sculpture is still Apinya’s passion. She said, “Right now it’s more like mixed media. I’m still experimenting with paper stop motion. It’s kind of like animation.”
She continued, “I’d like to have some of my art video to display at the Horlock House as well but I’m still working on my paper sculpture series.” Apinya and Rebecca are collaborating on the creation of an art record of their experiences in Navasota, particularly the events surrounding President Bush’s funeral procession.
She said, “We think most of our art is inspired by Navasota things, Navasota nature, a lot of beautiful things.”
Apinya’s extended stay has provided additional opportunity for personal and professional growth and sharing her love of art.
She said, “I am more comfortable with the media but I’m still practicing my English.”
Through the ACBV, Apinya and Dias were allowed to display their art at the Boots and BBQ Fundraiser in College Station where patrons could purchase art sales tax free. One program benefiting from the fundraiser was the Artist Connect Program.
According to the ACBV, the program was developed in 2016 to provide “free artistic opportunities for students in underserved rural areas of our region.” By 2018, Artist Connect was able to provide eight programs to three Title I schools that included Navasota’s Brule and Webb Elementary.
Apinya shared her love of paper sculpture with students working on an Easter project, a paper rabbit collage.
She said, “Some of them say they never done paper art. They never knew art could be anything other than coloring or drawing.”
Closer to home, Apinya is frequently seen at Navasota events like the Texas Birthday Bash, the Wine Walk, the Sounds of Summer Concert Series – anywhere she can experience life in Navasota - as well as joining other artisans at the Washington-on-the-Brazos farmers market.
Focused on current projects, Apinya’s future is fluid. She still has a desire to teach art in Thailand and said, “I still think about it because art students in Thailand want to learn new art just like here and I feel like I have a lot of experience that I can go back and teach them.”
Navasota has been Apinya’s home away from home for more than a year now and she said, “I feel like we are family. I love it here and this is my family too. I feel connected to the community.”
As for the support received from the Navasota community, Apinya said, “It doesn’t mean just buying our art, but they know what we’re doing, and they enjoy what we’re doing.”
August open house
The public will have the opportunity to meet and view the work of Navasota’s Artists in Residence, Saturday, Aug. 3, from 2-4 p.m. at the Horlock House Art Gallery and History Museum, 1215 E. Washington in Navasota. The gallery is open to the public Wednesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. and admission is free.